"Young, beautiful, and witty, Ginevra de’ Benci longs to take part in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence. But as the daughter of a wealthy family in a society dictated by men, she is trapped in an arranged marriage, expected to limit her creativity to domestic duties. Her poetry reveals her deepest feelings, and she aches to share her work, to meet painters and sculptors mentored by the famed Lorenzo de Medici, and to find love.
When the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, arrives in Florence, he introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers—a world of thought and conversation she has yearned for. She is instantly attracted to the handsome newcomer, who admires her mind as well as her beauty. Yet Ginevra remains conflicted about his attentions. Choosing her as his Platonic muse, Bembo commissions a portrait by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them—one Ginevra can only begin to understand. In a rich and enthralling world of exquisite art, elaborate feasts, and exhilarating jousts, she faces many temptations to discover her voice, artistic companionship, and a love that defies categorization. In the end, she and Leonardo are caught up in a dangerous and deadly battle between powerful families."
Let's talk about Da Vinci's Tiger.
Set in the times of Leonardo da Vinci (before Michelangelo), Da Vinci's Tiger looks into the society of that era and into the life of Ginevra de' Benci. She is a historical figure, and her portrait is indeed located at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Despite what the book's synopsis suggests, de' Benci is not the Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa is painted many years after de' Benci's portrait. Ginevra, Leonardo, Bembo are all real people (which makes the book so much cooler, in my opinion).
The writing style itself is hard to swallow. The language isn't similar to Grave Mercy and other Historical Fiction/Medieval Times novels I enjoy reading. The terminology is odd, and I find myself unfamiliar with these words. (A quick dictionary for the 15th century words at the back of the novel would be awesome. Footnotes will do.) It is perhaps the writing style that would be the downfall of this book if it isn't for the characters, their relationships to each other, the plot, and the ending.
Ginevra de' Benci herself is a likable narrator and main character. Quick, married, young, and beautiful, she finds herself drawn to two men: Leonardo da Vinci and Bernardo Bembo. It is her naivety that makes her seem younger than she really is, but she is capable of making good judgment and understanding society's view of her. I find a bit of myself in her.
Leonardo da Vinci has a strong emotional bond with Ginevra. Painting a portrait of her has brought him closer to her. Not quite romantically, but rather in a platonic way. From Ginevra's POV, their relationship does carry some romantic undertones, but ultimately, he makes his choice. Still, they have the best relationship in the entire book.
The plot unfolds slowly, letting the world building takes place. It starts picking up speed around Bembo's appearance, and I'm able to sink into the world building (though the writing style still alienates me).
And the ending. The ending is very satisfying and is unconventional. I find myself without words to describe exactly what I feel about it. It is squeal-worthy.
In conclusion, Da Vinci's Tiger is an intriguing novel with a wonderful heroine and a world-famous artist. It is one that makes readers think a lot, and it sparks questions. Though it lacks a character call-sheet, the book will definitely be enjoyed by those who love Historical Fiction set in Italy of the Medieval Times.
Rating: Three out of Five